Art and Power at Ghirza in the Libyan Pre-Desert
This chapter concerns the intersection of art and power in the Roman world, as well as how we study Roman art. A common emphasis on the formal qualities of so-called Romanized art has created the perception of art as symbolic of the success of Rome and of the acquiescence of indigenous peoples to its rule. From this perspective, provincial art can easily be dismissed as an often inadequate imitation of Roman style and images. In turn, this tendency has also led to greatest emphasis being placed on recording and displaying those works that attained the highest technical and stylistic affinities with examples from Rome or Italy. The chapter suggests an alternative approach to the study of Roman provincial art, one that embraces a series of discreet perspectives and considers different underlying themes in the imperial dialogue (including resistance, imitation, and adoption). In this context, it focuses on ways in which the adoption of so-called Romanized style also facilitated the continuation of indigenous traditions. These and related issues are explored with a case study from the Libyan pre-desert in the fourth century AD.
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